Friday, May 05, 2006

Lighting Up Brooklyn's Eiffel Tower

There have been numerous reports since early April of Brooklyn's Eiffel Tower--AKA the Parachute Jump in Coney Island--glowing in the dark late at night as work continues on a new lighting system. The lights, said to be a nice touch, are being installed as part of the ongoing multi-million overhaul of the structure.

One Coney Islander describes the lit up tower as "a surprising and spectular sight" that includes "bright red lights" around its circular and rows of lights down the sides. Some say the lights rimming the top make it look like a UFO. Others report there are also floodlights and (we can't wait to see this) strobe lights. Last fall, a London-based architects Kevin Carmody, Andrew Groarke, Chris Hardie and Lewis Kinneir won a competition to create a "Parachute Pavilion" next to the iconic tower-- a 7,800-square-foot, glass-enclosed structure with an exhibition space, a restaurant, a bar, and a souvenir shop.

The Parachute Jump was built for the 1939-40 World's Fair in Flushing Meadow and moved to Coney Island as part of Steeplechase Park (which was torn down by Donald Trump's father, who is said to have symbolically begun the 1964 demolition by throwing a rock through the glass of one of the world's most beautiful examples of Beaux-arts architecture). The Parachute Jump ride actually ran until 1968. The 262-foot tall structure has dodged multiple demolition bullets. It was landmarked in 1977, de-landmarked the same year and re-landmarked in 1989.

The overall Coney Island redevelopment scene has been eerily quiet since the glitzy redevelopment plan was unveiled in September. Shopping center developer Thor Equities (which also owns the Revere Sugar site in Red Hook) has been buying up land and has proposed an indoor shopping center and "attractions." Meanwhile, Coney is full of "for sale" and "for lease" signs, some of them on huge parcels of land. There is an ongoing study of (this is the frightening part) possible rezoning.

The other shoe will no doubt drop after the rezoning study is finished and hearings are held.

For now, Shoot the Freak, Cha Cha's and other Coney Island attractions will live to see out another summer season.

It is rumored that Marty Markowitz will flip the switch for the official lighting of the Parachute Jump in June, maybe timed to coincide with the Friday Night Fireworks, which kick off this year on Friday, June 30.

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